Cruising the Inside Passage in SE Alaska in a (Very) Small Boat

My recent trip through the Inside Passage of SE Alaska, my third in the area, broke all of my personal records for whales, brown bears, and photos. P1040628

I’ve managed to pare down my more than 1000 photos taken over 7 days to about 100. So, grab a beer, find a comfortable place to sit and scroll through some of the most stunning shots I’ve ever taken. I’m not bragging mind you. Its more a testament to the beauty and bounty of SE Alaska than it is to my skills as a photographer.

First the boat. Wilderness Travel, my host for this trip uses the MV Westward, an 8 passenger, 86 foot wooden yacht built in 1924, the first charter yacht  in Alaska. Unlike the huge cruise ships that dominate the market, its small size made it possible to get into coves and fjords that larger ships can not, as well as creating a far more intimate experience.P1040143 P1040144 P1040146 P1040147 P1040154 P1040162 P1040183 P1040264 P1040306 P1040748The trip was fairly active. We did a few hikes, ranging from short and easy to a 3 mile roundtrip hike with lots of roots, rocks and up and down. Also lots of fresh bear scat on the trail to remind us that we were not alone.P1040291
P1040293 P1040295 P1040296 P1040303 P1040860P1040857One of our hikes took us to a natural hot springs beside a roaring river. The first couple of photos show how we got to the trail (mostly on a boardwalk) that took us to the hot springs.P1040424P1040421P1040409 P1040412 P1040414 P1040415We also kayaked almost every day. P1040273 P1040694 P1040709 P1040724 P1040937 P1040941 P1040953 P1050167When we weren’t hiking or kayaking (or eating, more on that shortly), we watched the scenery go by from the boat.P1040897 P1040179 P1040200 P1040219 P1040223 P1040227 P1040229 P1040247 P1040635 P1040900 P1040904 P1040909 P1050007 P1050053As you can see the scenery was stunning but probably the most awesome site was Dawes Glacier at the end of Endicott Arm.P1040970 P1040977 P1040983 P1040999 P1050002But it was the wildlife that was most impressive of all. We saw almost 20 whales, mostly humpback but also including 2 orcas, over two days, with multiple sightings of each. Several of the sightings were very close, including a whale breaching just a few feet away from the boat (no photo, it happened too fast). P1040328 P1040335 P1040337 P1040340 P1040369 P1050068 P1050097 P1050125 P1050151Just as impressive as the whales were the bears, which we were able to observe up close at a fish hatchery. The bears were more interested in the fish so we were pretty safe. BTW almost all of the bears we saw on this trip were brown bears, cousins to the grizzly. P1040431 P1040435 P1040448 P1040452 P1040460 P1040486 P1040498 P1040500 P1040521 P1040522 P1040525 P1040551 P1040567 P1040577 P1040628To my fellow Philadelphia Eagle fans (as we say in the City of Brotherly Love, go Iggles!!), here are a few photos of our favorite avian mascot.P1040383 P1040489 P1040541 P1040629 P1050081And to round out the inventory of our wildlife viewing (not including insects, seals, porpoises, small mammals and other birds), we also saw sea lions and jellyfish (no joke, the jellyfish were among the most fascinating of all). P1040729 P1040741 P1040744 P1040763Special kudos to our crew, Capt. Bill who drove (does one “drive” a boat?) the boat all over the place in pursuit of wildlife and glaciers, and managed to avoid hitting any of the many ice bergs and “bergy bits” in our path; P1040164Caroline, our very knowledgeable and personable naturalists and guide;P1040302 P1040636and especially surprising, our excellent chef (not cook, chef) Tracie, who prepared the most amazing meals, usually based on her own recipes. These meals rivaled in quality and creativity the best meals I’ve eaten in cutting edge restaurants in Los Angeles. I don’t usually take photos of food (when food is placed in front of me, my first impulse is to eat it, not photograph it), but after a couple of days I decided that I needed to record the meals before they disappeared. I won’t even bother trying to describe these dishes.P1040238 P1040384 P1040650 P1040659 P1040661 P1040862 P1040864 P1040992                              

10 thoughts on “Cruising the Inside Passage in SE Alaska in a (Very) Small Boat

  1. Don, this is really quite impressive and compelling, as always. Phenomenal photos and commentary! I particularly enjoyed the Alaska link, which I apparently missed in the past. My family and a couple of friends are planning to cruise to Alaska next summer, but your piece opens an option we had not even considered. Keep doing it!

    • I strongly recommend this trip, as well as the boat and the company. I would be happy to discuss in more detail if you want.

    • Thanks. Make sure you have a good camera. Good binocs will also help. And good sunglasses for the glare off the water and the glaciers. Take advantage of every opportunity to go ashore or get in the kayaks.

  2. Love seeing the images of my home many years ago. I lived on a boat and worked all over Southeast Alaska. My heart and soul is still in Alaska. I worked all over Alaska for 20 years and hope to develop a plan to return annually and a trip like yours sounds like a perfect way to do it. How far was your trip?

    • Thanks Ken. It was a great trip, one of my all time favorites.In response to your question, the trip started in Sitka and ended in Juneau a week later.

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